Scripture encourages thanksgiving for the Providential goodness of God:
“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever... Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness… Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:1ff NKJV).
“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth…What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?”
Helped by a Native named Squanto, the Pilgrims enjoyed a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621. Edward Winslow voiced their gratitude: “God be praised, we had a good increase of cor… by the goodness of God, we are far from want.” Winslow also records: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling (turkey hunting), so that we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.” The Pilgrims shared their feast.
The Pilgrim’s practice of celebrating Thanksgiving took hold in New England, eventually spreading into neighboring colonies and becoming an annual tradition. During the War for Independence, the Continental Congress made eight Thanksgiving proclamations. President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation under the U.S. Constitution on October 3, 1789, just days after the Bill of Rights was approved.
Yet it was President Abraham Lincoln who established a national Thanksgiving Day holiday. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln made the following Thanksgiving proclamation:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies… No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy...”
1. God providentially sent Squanto, the right man at the right time with the right skills, to help the Pilgrims learn how to survive. Thank God for His Providence.
2. The Pilgrims were filled with gratitude for their abundant harvest in 1621, inviting the Natives to a feast. Thank God for opportunities to share with people.
3. Later, a drought reportedly reduced the Pilgrims to a few kernels of corn per day, but God sent rain just in time to restore the withered crops, leading to a Thanksgiving feast in 1623. God provides. Thank God for His provision.
4. America has a long history of protecting public religious expression. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a New York case involving the ability of a local town to open public meetings with prayer. Pray that our Supreme Court Justices would rule in favor of the town of Greece, New York and would uphold the freedom of Americans to look to God for guidance in our communities. Thank God for America’s spiritual heritage and for His preserving presence.